TaskRabbit and the Future of Social Commerce

by Adam on March 26, 2013

While the idea for this blog post came up at a meeting I had while at SXSW, I’ve been late to distill my thinking on it. Hopefully, with enough typing and retyping, I can recreate the original intent in some form or another.

I was sharing breakfast one morning in Austin with a food + tech investor, and the conversation no doubt turned to the topic of memorable meals while in the city. He mentioned offhandedly that he had gone to Franklin BBQ, one of the most well-known BBQ joints in the country, which, unsurprisingly, is known for its long wait times (some patrons have waited in line for 2+ hours only to be turned away after provisions ran out). I was surprised at first, not taking him for the type who would both be pulled into the fanfare of a popular restaurant, nor someone who would be willing to wait in line for such a heinous amount of time. Until he let on that he didn’t actual wait at all. In fact, he had hired a taskrabbit to wait for him, said taskrabbit receiving $43 for the privilege.

For those that don’t know, TaskRabbit is a site that allows you to list jobs that you need done, but don’t have time or inclination to tend to. These jobs include anything from picking up dry cleaning, to delivering food, to waiting on the phone with a customer service rep (or waiting in line at a BBQ place). Taskrabbits can preview all the available jobs and submit bids saying how much they’d be willing to do the work for. You can then see the available taskrabbits who have bid, read reviews and pick someone to serve your whims (or just get the job done).

When I heard about my meeting-mates’ experience with the site, I was really intrigued. I’ve never used the service, but have heard a ton about it, and I think it points to a new trend in how we value our time versus our money. Many of you are familiar with Tim Ferriss I’m sure, and his idea of a 4-hour workweek. One of the key pillars of his model is that you have to figure out what your time is worth on an hourly basis, and then decide which tasks you can pay to have done more cheaply than you would do yourself. TaskRabbit is basically capitalizing on that model and allowing you to make connections more quickly with those people that are willing to do the lower paying tasks that you don’t want to do.

It’s more than just a matter of ease or convenience, especially when you think about the cottage industry that has now sprung up in decentralized service. While the site itself does have a rigorous screening process, it basically allows anyone who wants it to become a freelance member of the service industry. The array of issues here is pretty extensive when you think about it, both around what people are willing to pay for certain tasks, as well as the kinds of tasks that people want done. And who monitors that? Who is the policing body that is sure that the tasks being done are legal, fairly priced, etc? And how does regulation of that kind of industry work when the “employer” is just an average joe looking to simplify their life?

There are many instances of the internet connecting us on a social level, but as it relates to our interactions around social commerce, TaskRabbit holds a unique place in that it clearly denotes the line between service provider and seeker, and there is an inherent tension in that relationship. I’m not sure what it leads to, but it’s interesting to think about what it would mean for our ability to monetize relationships online and also build offline interactions from online beginnings.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: